MOB betting app case: HC rejects pre-arrest bail plea of actor Sahil Khan | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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MOB betting app case: HC rejects pre-arrest bail plea of actor Sahil Khan

Apr 27, 2024 09:48 AM IST

The court also noted that the investigation being conducted by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) had revealed that there were 67 betting websites

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Wednesday dismissed the pre-arrest bail plea of actor and fitness influencer Sahil Khan in connection with an FIR registered against him for allegedly promoting online betting applications, stating that “he was directly connected with an online betting application.”

Actor Sahil Khan (Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)
Actor Sahil Khan (Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)

“The entire operation is illegal. A huge amount is involved. Fictitious bank accounts are created. Different fake SIM cards are used in big numbers. The applicant is directly connected with the App ‘The Lion Book247,’” said a single judge bench of justice SV Kotwal while dismissing the plea.

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The court also noted that the investigation being conducted by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) had revealed that there were 67 betting websites, all of which were being controlled from foreign destinations, over 2,000 bogus SIM cards (obtained on bogus documents) were used to lure gullible people to place bets on various games. Over 1,700 bank accounts opened using fake documents were used to collect and withdraw money, which was subsequently routed through Hawala channels and cryptocurrency.

The FIR was originally registered by the Matunga police in November 2023, based on a complaint lodged by Prakash Bankar, a social activist, alleging that several web portals were designed for online betting/gambling on cricket, football, tennis, and card games like teen patti etc.

The ‘Style’ actor was one of the several accused named in the FIR, which was later transferred to the EOW for investigation. According to the FIR, Bankar discovered several online betting applications on social media, including the Sahil Khan-promoted Khiladi Book, a division of the Mahadev app. He alleged that the accused used social media platforms to prey on prospective players and induce them to invest and sign up on the portal.

Khan had approached the high court for pre-arrest bail in the case, claiming that being a celebrity, he ‘merely acted as a brand promoter’, relying on an Influencer Engagement Agreement dated February 21, 2022, with M/s. Isports247, a sports management company, for promotion of the brand ‘The Lion Book’.

He added that he had no direct link with the online betting platforms/websites, and the agreement was for 24 months and for the duration he was to be paid 3 lakh per month for posting two promotional videos every month on his Instagram and Facebook pages.

The police, on the other hand, claimed that the actor was not a mere brand promoter but was directly connected with the app, ‘The Lion Book.’ An additional public prosecutor informed the court that he had mentioned on his Instagram post a list of the apps in which he was a partner but later removed ‘The Lion Book’ from the list.

The police also claimed that the agreement was relied on deliberately to mislead the authorities to project as if the actor was merely a ‘Brand Ambassador’ and to hide that he was a co-owner of ‘The Lion Book.’

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